Thirty-six-foot Catalina keelboats will be both your transportation and your home on your sailing section. Smuggler
Cove, British Columbia Photo: Alan Neilson
This is one of the most geographically diverse semesters at NOLS.
Your adventure will begin in the desert Southwest, a land of cactus and javelina, and as winter subsides you will move north, to the lush Pacific Northwest with its snow-covered peaks and forested islands.
During the only spring semester that combines both desert travel and maritime skills, you’ll experience a wide variety of adventures that will allow you to be a well-rounded wilderness traveler on land and sea.
You’ll begin at NOLS Southwest in Tucson, Ariz., for wilderness first aid, backpacking, and climbing, and then transition to NOLS Pacific Northwest outside Seattle, Wash., for sailing and sea kayaking.
From scaling a rock wall in Arizona to slicing through the waters of British Columbia, you’ll have the time of your life and see just how versatile the NOLS curriculum is.
Wilderness First Aid (WFA)
Hosted by the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute, this 20-hour section covers CPR and first aid specific to wilderness emergencies and is essential for anyone spending extended time in the outdoors.
Student Sean Bryant stays hydrated in the deserts of the American Southwest. Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
Photo: Josh Beckner
Whether hiking in Arizona's rocky Galiuro Mountains, with rugged cliffs and natural springs, or New Mexico's Gila Range, the first designated wilderness area in the U.S., you will learn the essentials of backcountry living and soak up life outside.
The Southwest promises warm, sunny weather and enough climbing routes to keep you roped up and cranking hard. We'll set up a base camp at either Cochise Stronghold or Joshua Tree National Park, from which to learn top-roping, anchor building, climbing movement, and even multi-pitch skills.
The coastal sailing section takes place in the northern reaches of the Strait of Georgia and Desolation Sound in British Columbia, Canada. You’ll learn how to sail and navigate 36-foot keelboats, each carrying a group of students and an instructor. On-water classes include boat handling, charts, coastal navigation, and seamanship.
You’ll paddle the remote waters of British Columbia’s central coast on this section, visiting pristine sandy beaches, majestic fjords, ancient moss-covered rain forests, and remote islands and sea caves. At the same time, you’ll learn a range of technical skills, from basic to advanced sea kayaking strokes to weather awareness and knowledge of tides and currents. Whales, sea lions, and wolves are just a sample of the wildlife you could see on this amazingly wild waterway.